The Kansas City Royals are off to their best start since their World Series championship season of 2015. They have a lock-down bullpen, as they did in 2015, and they’ve had clutch hitting recently from 2015 World Series MVP Salvador Perez.
Perez has had a game-winning home run in each of the past two games.
But Royals manager Mike Matheny also is getting strong enough outings from his starting rotation to keep his team in the game for the bullpen.
“I have confidence in really everybody,” Matheny said after Brady Singer pitched six scoreless innings Sunday, limiting the Toronto Blue Jays to two hits in the Royals’ 2-0 win. “The rotation as well as the pen. Being able to hand it over there, we’ve got some guys we trust to get the job done. But it all hinges on our starting rotation.”
The Royals will host the Tampa Bay Rays for the start of a three-game series Monday night. Matheny will count on left-hander Danny Duffy (2-0, 0.75 ERA) to repeat his performance from his first two games, in which he pitched six innings both times.
“We need those guys to take some of that day-in, day-out grind from the bullpen and pitch a little deeper into the game,” Matheny said.
Duffy has allowed just one earned run in 12 innings. Last Tuesday, in his most recent outing, he allowed one run in six innings against the Los Angeles Angels and held them to 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. On his 100th pitch of the night, he struck out Jack Mayfield on a 95-mph elevated fastball with the bases loaded to end the top of the sixth inning.
“I was just trying to empty the tank in that situation,” Duffy said. “We were able to get a good heater in there, and he swung under it. That was a big one, for sure.”
Duffy is 2-1 with a 2.68 ERA in six career starts against Tampa Bay. This time around, he will face a Rays team fresh off a three-game road sweep of the New York Yankees.
“It is gratifying to come in here and for the guys to find a way to complete a series and win three,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, whose team has won 18 of its past 23 games against the Yankees. “It’s just not an easy thing to do, it doesn’t happen often, so you’ve got to enjoy it when it does.”
The Rays are off to an up-and-down start but have feasted on the Yankees. The Rays took two of three against them April 9-11 in Florida. Between the two series was a four-game series against the Texas Rangers in which the Rays won just one game. The Boston Red Sox swept three games from the Rays earlier this month.
The Rays have scored more runs in six games against the Yankees (36) than in 10 games against everyone else (32). But they won’t face the Yankees again until almost the middle of May.
On Monday, the Rays will start left-hander Josh Fleming (0-1, 1.80), who grew up about 3 1/2 hours away and expects to have 30-plus friends and family members in the stands at Kauffman Stadium. Fleming made his major-league debut last August and has never faced the Royals.
–Field Level Media